It's day eleven (for me) in the A-Z blog challenge! This month I'll be sharing all about my Christmas/New Year's travels to Canada – providing insight into the places I went, reviewing the hotels I stayed at, and telling my story. Today's letter is N for new experiences at Château Frontenac, a gorgeous (more than) hotel built in 1893 with its focus being wealthy tourists.
|Photo via Visualhunt|
Even though Château Frontenac was at the top of my must-stay hotel list for Québec City, Canada, the price was simply outside of our range. Plus, given that I didn't have status with the Fairmont chain, I didn't want to book a "cheap" room (there are no cheap rooms at this hotel!) with the risk of not being upgraded to a room with a view of the Saint Laurent River. At least with the Hilton, I knew I had a chance!
Nevertheless, you can't visit Québec City without making a point to check out the beautiful Château Frontenac.
Originally built to accommodate visitors to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, Château Frontenac was not completed in time. Instead, the hotel more notably held guests from The Québec Conference of 1943 and was used as the filming location for Alfred Hitchcock's film I Confess. Château Frontenac is the most prominent feature of the Québec City skyline and stands at 262 feet tall/79.9 meters; it is the ninth tallest building in Québec City situated atop a high elevation of 177 feet/54 meters and was built in sections with the most recent addition added as late as 1993.
While we didn't stay at the hotel, we definitely took part in many of the activities found at the hotel including tobogganing, Christmas shopping at the local stores, eating maple candy just outside the hotel, and enjoying a lovely after dinner treat at Bar 1608 inside the hotel.
Before we ventured to Québec City, I had read about some of the many "sports" available there. Snow skiing, dog-sledding, ice skating, and, of course, tobogganing. Having grown up in a place where temperatures only dip as low as perhaps 30ºF for only a few days in the year, I was highly interested in trying some of these sports. But a lack of time meant we needed to stick with simple activities. And a lack of money meant we needed to keep those simple activities fairly cheap. Thus: tobogganing was our only option. (I've never snow skied before, so that would have required a learning curve, dog-sledding seemed rather expensive, and ice skating would have taken too much of our time.)
To toboggan, you have to go into a coffee shop just outside Château Frontenac (on the Saint Laurent River side) and pay for your tickets. You get one ticket for each person. Then, you wait in line beside the fence where the slide(?) ends to get a toboggan. Then, you carry the toboggans up the hill. There are no steps and the hill can be quite slippery as the snow compacts into ice. Wood boards will help make the climb easier ad prevent you from sliding as much, but good gripping shoes are certainly helpful.
Once at the top, it's a waiting game. First, you wait for your turn. Then, you sit on the toboggan and wait for everyone else to get settled. If it is your first time tobogganing, it's likely you will feel nervous having heard all of the screams coming from the people tobogganing before you. Don't be anxious. :) Tobogganing, at least a this location, in my opinion, was a bit like riding a roller coaster slide, if such a thing were to exist. It's bumpy and feels super fast at 45mph (or 70 km/h). Definitely a fun experience and worthy of doing at least once during your time in Québec City.
After the fun toboggan run, we went into the small coffee shop to get a hot chocolate … only it didn't look so good, so we left.
Do not be surprised to see people in the coffee shop taking up tables and seats to prepare for their own toboggan run. People will be in various states of dress (for the cold) putting on multiple socks, adding layers on top of layers, and making sure they are in order before venturing out into the cold. Service workers in this location don't seem to mind. (I'm guessing they make most of their money on toboggan tickets.)
As we wandered around to the front side of the hotel (facing the city), we discovered Tire Sur La Neige (maple taffy on snow). While this wasn't our first experience with the delicious treat (video of that to come in a future post!), we did enjoy it all the same.
|Photo credit: JaimeW via Visual hunt / CC BY|
Exploring the inside of Château Frontenac was an experience in itself.
We enjoyed the beautiful Christmas trees, each hosted and decorated by companies…
See the decorations they used?
Old newspaper ad clippings?
We also glanced through stores at expensive goods beyond our financial level.
As nice as it might be to own a real fur, I simply couldn't see paying hundreds of dollars for something I would never wear.
Then we made our way to the bar 1608.
The line to get in was incredibly long and we had to wait almost an hour to get in, but it was worth it. (You cannot make reservations in advance.)
I ordered hot chocolate and Justin got some speciality drinks off the menu.
We also got a cheese and meet plate.
Sitting at the bar, we watched the snow come down in blizzard like conditions outside.
The location of 1608 and the octagonal shape of the windows only dramatized the snow making us grateful to be in such a warm location.
|image from Fairmont website|
As we left, we spotted a window where meat and cheese hung to entice guests to visit the hotel bar and restaurant… Of course, we felt it only added to the experience making the meat and cheese bar all the more enticing. :)
Even though I can't say for sure whether or not a stay at Château Frontenac is worth it, Justin and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the hotel and would consider both tobogganing and returning to 1608 again in the future.
|Photo credit: Artur Staszewski via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA|
How familiar with cold weather sports are you? Have you tried tobogganing before? Would you ever consider exploring a hotel, like Château Frontenac simply for the sake of exploring it? … even if you aren't staying there?